MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents Thursday adopted a resolution endorsing an “Economic Stimulus Package,” a two-year supplement to the UW System biennial operating budget proposal advanced last month by Governor Scott McCallum.
In introducing the budget item, Regent President Jay L. Smith noted that Governor McCallum had been supportive of the university in introducing his proposed 2001-03 budget. But, said Smith, the governor had tough budget choices, given the grim state financial outlook.
McCallum proposed $55 million in new state dollars for the UW System over the biennium, a little less than a third of the UW’s requested package. Of that amount, $8.7 million was earmarked for new programs.
“It’s clear that our original budget request is unrealistic at this point in time because the state economic projections are down,” said Smith. “But it’s also clear that those projections could improve and if they do, we have support downtown for our new economy initiatives.”
In passing the supplemental economic stimulus package, the board revisited the funding priorities they had set in August when they sent forward their original 2001-03 budget proposal to the Governor.
The Regents reiterated their concern about Wisconsin’s economic outlook, and their support for UW programs that would “help the State of Wisconsin by increasing the number of students in high tech, high paying fields and by providing funding for student priorities.”
In introducing the budget item, Regent President Jay L. Smith said: “I’ve asked President Katharine Lyall and the staff to tell us what initiatives are most critical to the state and to our students if dollars become available.”
President Lyall introduced a package that seeks roughly $20 million in state funds annually (or $59.9 million during the next biennium) to supplement the Governor’s proposed UW System budget.
Included is more funding for part two of the Madison Initiative, the Milwaukee Idea, and financial aid through the Advanced Opportunity and Lawton Grant Programs.
The package also would support business and workforce development. Identified in this category is funding for new initiatives at comprehensive campuses and UW-Extension. Examples include the Chippewa Valley Initiative (UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout), the engineering collaboration involving UW-Platteville and UW-Fox Valley, and the bioinfomatics program at UW-Parkside. Nearly all of this additional funding would be state tax dollars (GPR).
The package also includes support for library acquisitions, improved academic advising, scholarships for study abroad students and a collaborative language instruction program.
“We are at an early stage of the ongoing budget process,” said Lyall. “Elected representatives in both houses, both parties, must weigh the choices for Wisconsin’s future embodied in the next budget.”
Lyall said she already had had overtures from state lawmakers seeking to put more funding for their local university campuses back in the budget.
“This economic stimulus package gives some order to our remaining priorities,” said Lyall.
Even with these programs, the Regents left much of what they had originally requested from the state on the cutting room floor. These included projects on teacher education, much needed funding for preventive maintenance, funding for adult access, instructional technology funding and funds for precollege programs.
All of the items requested in the package were part of the board’s 2001-03 original biennial budget proposal, submitted to Governor Thompson last August.
“Our job,” said Lyall, “is to keep before our public decision-makers the opportunities and the payoffs they must ultimately decide to seize, or forego, for the state.
“By focusing now on our most urgent needs, the UW System is effectively deferring a variety of new initiatives until the next biennium,” said Lyall.
“These are painful choices,” she added. “Each of them will set us back in our ability to contribute as much as we might to our students and the state.”
The economic stimulus package, endorsed by the board, could be introduced by one or more legislators as they begin their deliberations on the state budget. The package also could be introduced when the party caucuses make budget-related decisions.
In addition to the Economic Stimulus Package, the board reaffirmed the portion of its “Tuition Policy Principles” that concerns student financial aid. The principle states that “GPR financial aid and graduate assistant support increases should be kept commensurate with general tuition increases.” The board encouraged the governor and legislature to fund state-supported financial aid programs to achieve this goal. The governor’s budget proposal currently contains no new funding for the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (WHEG) program, which largely benefits low-income students.